Category Archives: Public service

Sweeping Indictments

Tomorrow is just another Tuesday, but for the registered voters in New Jersey, California, New Mexico, Montanna, North Dakota, and South Dakota it is Election Day. You can tell who the democrats are by their level of enthusiasm. This is an anticlimactic time for the conservatives because their hero has already won by default. Even those who dislike the fact that Trump will be the republican candidate have long since quieted down.  

Who would have thought (even a year ago), that our nation would be at such a political impass? One thing is for certain. Regardless of how uniformed the voting public may be, everyone knows that the American standard is about to change.  Even the unregistered, non-citizens, and underage residents of our nation long to be a part of the conversation.  This will be an election year like no other.  EVERYone will have an opinion–and most of them will stink.  

There’s going to be a lot of shit-slinging.  And when the fight is over, we will all be covered.  

This is a time to watch the signs.  The decline of a nation (or even a civilization) will not be a sudden occurrence.  We watched it decline began hundreds of years ago. It is the rate by which we exchange information that makes this an interesting time to be involved.  

Social unrest, moral decay, hypocracy, economic injustice has reached intolerable levels.  This is not the time to be in power.  There will be no “sudden shift” like the politicos are forcasting. However, this will mark the end of an era. 

The ideas of obsconding to foreign lands were revisited when very few countries opened their borders to Syrian refugees.  They were being terrorized in their home land by extremist.  And still they received little empathy.  You think American defectors stand a chance in the eyes of the United Nations?  

Suddenly places like Russia and Western Europe seem mildly appealing. It’s time to start traveling–before U.S. passports become valueless.  It may time to visit the places that Bernie references (like Finland).   It’s not such a grand idea however to make reservations in places like Isreal or China.  The close proximity to Iraq and Afganistan does not make Americans any more welcome. The changing faces of American money (alone) is enough to be indicted for Western arrogance. It’s simply not a good look. 

Our entire political system has attention deficit disorder. Politics creeps their way into religious sanctuaries as pastors struggle to refrain from interjecting their personal beliefs. 

Who would Jesus vote for?  Clearly not the same candidate as Muhammad.  The social climate is no longer discrete.  Americans have become very vocal about their distastes and personal dogmas.  Feelings are getting hurt as everyone is openly professing their biases (and constitutional right to be a bigot).  Entitlement is at an all time high, but determination to thrive is at an all time low.  Who wants to be responsible for a nation of gluttons and theives?   For surely if this is the case, the Donald has already won.  

Why didn’t Bernie run for president in the 80s?  Was Carter so bad that the Democratic Party lost the confidence of the majority.  Where was the civil rights movement in the 70s?  Were the hippies too hung over on the gonja, or did they have a severe case of dance fever?  It seems that once we got some semblance of  what we wanted, we became complacent.  The yuppies and the buppies (Black Upwardly-Mobile Professionals) had enough easy access to timeshares, BMW’s, real estate, and education that the struggle dissipated. 

Now the struggle is real, and there are no more heros.  The private interest has gotten very clever in rallying public support. The mules keep hoping to get fed off of the excess wealth that was carved away from the American infrastructure.  The public didn’t even see it coming.  The few that did were deemed fanatics, socialist, and “liberals.”   

Conspiracies are real when they are FACT. Zealots warn of “the machine” just as the Panthers warned of “the man” but the status quo was acceptable to society as a whole. 

Tomorrow is Election Day and the fate of America is not sealed. In fact, the republicans who don’t vote tomorrow are also living on borrowed time.  How quickly can you change your party affiliation?  Quicker than you can sell your home and run away. That’s for sure!

Don’t give up, America!  We created this problem, but it’s not too late to fix it. We can take responsibility.  We can right the wrongs if only we recognize what we’ve allowed this to happen.  This IS your land.  This IS my land (too).  Let’s not run for the border; because no other nation wants to be contaminated either. 

Vote!

Today My Superpowers Were Activated

This is Teacher Appeciation Week!


Today was the most important day of the week!  What would have started like any other day where I fantasize about getting to the copier before my colleagues and prepare another awesome lesson AND bask in that elusive “teachable moment” I instead caught myself parking too far away, hopping puddles, and swinging my brief case over tiny heads to elude my watching principal.  Yaaaas! Today was another one of THOSE days!

For me, Teacher Appreciation Day consists of getting through the day knowing that I enlightened someone else (atleast in theory).  Just like yesterday and the week before–sort of like Father’s Day, but without the unwanted ties–I do my best.   No recognition required.

 

However, today was the day that I was called upon to activate my super powers.  To understand what I mean, I should take you back to the first day of school.  I wore a cape.  Dressed like Zorro (without the sword), I broke the ice by inviting each of my new students to choose a super power.  If they could posses any talent, what would it be? 

My first student told me she’d be invisible.  How revealing?  So I gave her a laminated illustration of Invisible Girl.  Another student said he’d protect the environment.  I offered him a Captain Planet photograph. 

Our first morning meeting was exciting. Every student identified with a super hero unique to their own talents and inhibitions.  

But one student stood out.  He was included on my original roster but was retrieved early in the lesson to join another class.  Before he had a chance to participate, he had to leave.  He cried.  He wanted to be a super hero too.  I kneeled down and whispered in his ear that he will always be apart of our class, and that he could still be a hero.  


In a moment of spontenanity I offered him the option of being a super spy–a secret double agent–which quickly evolved into a “class ambassador” who could report back to our Justice League at a later date.  He accepted, and his tears began to dry.  I explained that any time our paths met in the hallway, I’d signal him with a modest thumbs up.  If everything was copetectic, he’d respond in kind.  We had a plan! ūüēĶūüŹľ

Months later, he rose to the top of his class. I knew that I had nothing to do with his success.  Infact, I revelled in the knowledge that he was getting a great education in my colleague’s class. Without my shinanegans slowing him, he was making great progress.  

Frequently, we’d catch up with each other in the hallway. I’d greet him with a thumbs up.  “Hey Zorro,” he’d whisper.  


But as the year progressed, the super hero gimmick faded in the wake of more important subject matter.  Vocabulary competitions, math challenges, and writing workshops became daily routine.  Now we’ve mastered second grade content and are progressing towards promotion.  Thirty days and counting!   The school is still quiet from standardized testing.  The weather outside fluctuates from hour to hour.  Occasional field trips arrouse the student excitement while the chance of running wild for recess builds anticipation. 

Today when I arrived, the administrative assistant alerted me to my newest arrival.  My secret agent was going to rejoin my class!  Although unanticipated, change is exciting and met accordingly.  Thumbs up and off to class.  But when he arrived, he wasn’t so happy.  He enjoyed the comfort of his other class and was in no mood for gimmicks.  

He had tears in his eyes.  He did NOT want anything to do with a new environment.  I tried to reconnect with him.  He wasn’t interested.  And then it hit me!  

I asked him if he recalled his super power.  He nodded.  “I’m a secret agent,” he said.  

“You’re other class is way ahead of mine,” I declared.  “We could sure use your help…”  He cried harder.  ūüôÉ

I was at a loss, and then it hit me.  I too needed to activate my super power.  I am a teacher!  I’m a counselor. I am a role model and a friend. 

I recalled Peter Parker! Clark Kent!  Bruce Wayne!  They all were super in their own rite.  But there came a day that they had to activate their super power.  They had to put aside their alter ego in leui of their super identity.  

There comes a time in our lives that we all do this.  The day I became a father; the night I was called to fight my first house fire;  or the day I chased down a shoplifter–today was my day (again)!  

I kneeled down and whispered, “today is your day…”   He stopped sniffling.  He wiped away the tears.  He had to make a choice.  


I’d like to tell you that he took my hand and walked with me into our class.  I can’t because lying is NOT my super power.  Instead I can honestly tell you that with much pleading and bargaining, cojoling and convincing, my “special agent” opted out.  

Something was learned today.  I can’t tell you what he learned, but I can tell you about THIS super teacher.  Not every lesson is a successful one.  

Just like other adults, my day is filled with compromise.  I try. I learn. I help.  I receive help.  With some support from my colleagues, my secret agent returned to his other class.  He was happy.  My other students had an opportunity to exercise their developing talents, and no one had homework today.   

Alas, (sigh)…

Today was Teacher Appreciation Day!  I appreciate my students and my colleagues.  I think they appreciate me.  Tomorrow will come.  And we will learn some more…

Fellow educators, thank you for not giving up. You’re SUPER!

We Are The Revolutionaries!

“Stand up and fight back!” ¬†No matter what side of the political isle you call home, you are going to experience a significant change in the socio-economic climate in the WORLD. ¬†What we are witnessing now is not merely an American condition.

As Canada prepares for American refugees, and Mexico shakes it’s head in disgust, there’s a¬†burning sensation¬†to revolt against the true¬†neo-fascist. ¬†The¬†political infrastructure for decades to come will be built on the decisions we are making in 2016.

Every conservative AND every liberal has a position on all of these issues:

Decent living-wage. ¬†Some defend the status quo because they’ve “earned” their place in life building a skill set based on hard work and opportunity. ¬†Others are demanding a better working condition as they watch their managers and handlers profit from their hard work. ¬†They call it¬†oppression.

Disenfranchisement. The good ol’ boy network has evolved to include a new demographic, but it maintains the same elitist restrictions. ¬†The club is now comprised of both “old money” and new wealth, but a general disgust for anyone looking to evenly distribute the opportunity. ¬†If there’s a way to hamper the positive change on the other end of a registered voter, it will be exploited. ¬†Selma exists in every region of our nation via gerrymandering, pole taxes, residency requirements, and basic literacy expectations. What would result if every ex-con, homeless citizen, naturalized immigrant, college freshman, or disenfranchised senior actually were guaranteed their human right to choose their destiny?

Social Justice. The same injustices that the “privileged” dismiss as delusions of grandeur are the badges of courage for every man, woman, or child who dare wear a hooded sweatsuit while grasping a bag of skittles. ¬† ¬†Martyrs are created from the innocent and under-privileged. Civil disparities prompt prejudice and bigotry based on skin color, gender, and creed (with a twist of poverty). ¬†The ultimate sacrifice is minimized and summarized into sound bites and hashtags. ¬†And a cry to go back to a “better time” is embraced by anyone with good credit, a stable job, and…outstanding student loan balances. ¬†The advocates for change are the same folks who have been denied access to the very freedoms for which they’ve paid! ¬†The protectors of those freedoms are the very ones who’ve enjoyed them for generations.

Criminal Justice.  A system that has incarcerated more minorities per capita than any nation in the world is founded on the premise that anti-social is pro-criminal.  But systematically, who is enforcing these norms? There are inmates serving prison sentences for crimes that have been repealed; for peddling drugs that are now legal; while while celebrities glamorize these same norms  and exploit the very same legal system.



Economics.
Profits would be generated on all of this except for the fact that the top one percent has their banks off-shore (and they’re not spending any of that fleeced wealth). Our government can no longer generate revenue from (foreclosed) property, (unearned) income, or (unsold) merchandise. ¬†The money that was spent on industrialized prison complexes, charter schools, and weapons of war…has long-since been directed away from law enforcement, public education, and social services.

“We can do much better!”¬† This is the new freedom cry, but it’s almost too late.

We are the new revolutionaries!  

But the freedoms for which we are fighting have already been given away.

I am a Bullied Teacher

We all have witnessed someone being bullied. It’s not the problem that defines us, but how we react to the problem. Today, I choose to stand up. Share this with an educator. Empathy is the first step.

talesofateach1987

Each day, I pull into the parking lot of my school and sit in my car. I do not want to go in for fear of what this day will hold. I sit in my car and pray. I pray to God that today will be a good day for my children and me. I pray that I can withstand whatever my administration throws at me. I pray that I will be able to fight back tears in staff meetings. I pray that I will not face any scrutiny on this day. I pray these prayers, because I am being bullied. Not by my co-workers. Not by my students’ parents. No. I am being bullied by those who should be providing me support…my administration.

I am a bullied teacher.

I walk into my classroom with sadness in my heart and a frown on my face. I feel this sadness because…

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Intellectual Grunt

Educators are slowly making the transition from education professional to civil service grunt. Society learned long ago of self-fulfilling prophecies. Treating someone a certain way for a long enough period of time, will cause them to behave that way. Intellectuals don’t function within that same realm, however there are exceptions to every rule. 

Treating someone badly for a prolonged period of time and then expecting them to yield positive results is just ludicrous. It’s just that simple.  Value someone as a person, and they will offer a human response. 

Educators are no longer valued as the noble professionals they once were. In history, similar trends have occurred and society has evolved or even recovered. But the pendellum is not swinging back quickly enough.  

Working to the contract, signing in/out for lunches, documenting all interpersonal interactions‚Ķthese are things that clerical and and “nine to five employees” do daily to justify their jobs. It’s menial yet measurable.  

 
But educators are held to a higher standard. All the while the measuring stick becomes more and more antiquated.  How can any professional gain a semblance of distinction when the standards are constantly changing?  

There isn’t a single educator who chose their profession because of a secret desire to crunch numbers, process paperwork, or punch a clock.  

Educators have been the focus of political blame because they are an easy target.  The cost of education is a constant.  As long as there are students, there will be teachable content and an opportunity to build on previous knowledge.  

And the cost of THIS is immeasurable.  

School districts, municipal boards, county and state budget committees struggle annually to project for these increasing costs.  So where do they cut?  Anywhere and everywhere!  

No matter where the cuts occur, human lives are impacted.  The teacher-to-student bond will be dimished to a point that it can no longer exist.  Cyber schools are no longer science fiction and lore.  The movement to eliminate teachers has begun.  Students will “develop” without instruction.  And those teachers WILL become the statisticians and programmers of online content accessible only through a internet server.  

The biggest expense in education is the cost of the teacher.  The second biggest expense is the student.  Third is the cost of replenishing, upgrading, and maintaining the educational infrustructure.  But the infrustructure has value beyond the classroom. When the classrooms are no longer sufficient, they will be used for something else.  Public school buildings built today are designed to serve multiple purposes (as they always have been). Today it’s a public school; tomorrow it’s a charter school;  five years from now a church; eventually a bomb shelter.  

But aren’t educators like other civil servants? 

No!  They are less effective in negotiating their own work environment.  The controls over their work environment are in the hands of school boards and the public by proxy.  

Educators can’t apply the effective labor tactics that other unions employ.  They can’t strike. They can’t really speak to the media without recourse, and their online activity is monitored closely. No matter how badly they’re bullied, educators remain resilient.  

Holding their heads high, educators generate lesson plan, grade assessments between classes,  coordinate with cohorts, develop professionally, convention collectively, and some even lobby through their associations to create positive change–all on their own time.  

Bullied? 

By policy makers, school boards, administrators, parents, and sometimes students, educators succum to the demands beyond their control. They’re not easily persuaded though. Educators are dignified and diligent. An unmoving target, the blows are met with great force.  

But isn’t education changing?

Education evolves, but at a steady (and sometimes slower) rate than other aspects of society.  Ed policy is based on data-based studies and proven success.  This takes time.  But in recent years, data is driven by the need to be more efficient regardless of how effective.  Not to mention that the resources, tools, curriculum, and texts used in the classroom are marketed by for-profit entities tied to political policy.  Non-educators making Ed policy?

Educators hold themselves to a higher standard already. Educators persevere. They thrive on the teachable moments in every lesson. Life lessons are built on overcoming adversity. Educators turn negatives into positives daily. So it’s really no surprise that educators are willing to tolerate, flex, and bend to accommodate the circumstances.  A steady target!

The politicians may never know the wrath of this type of public servant. Educators can take abuse and never reach their breaking point. Dealing with parents, negotiating with administrators, encouraging students to reach their potential. It’s not easy work. The most experienced educator perseveres through the most challenging circumstances. And upon retirement, educators continue to nurture!

How many other professions can make that claim. Educators just don’t quit. So putting the entire profession into a vice and squeezing is not going to end in a positive manner. But the students will learning. The students are watching.  What lesson is being taught?

Consider all of these factors (and knowing that more and more obstacles are mounting). To be any less would negate the silent oath of an educator.  To work less, to care less, to plan less, advocate less…would simply ease our transitions becoming civil service grunts.  Educators would be as effective as any other civil servant, but with more power.  More power to secure our community—or all the ability to simply walk away.  

Angry Black Man

In recent months I’ve been dubbed by my friends as the “angry black man.”   My whole life I’ve been pretty happy-go-lucky.  I’ve been serene, getting upset only when things happen that are within my control.  All other problems were either surrendered to God or they simply slid into the abyss.
Life gets in the way…

Life!

It gets in the way of our hopes and dreams.  It also gets in the way of our problems.  Especially as every nuance of our lives gets translated into a sound bite or 15-minutes of temporary fame for the headliner.   Life just..happens.

Problems either dissolve or get handled in due time.  But we exert emphasis on the life problems that are important to us–those life problems that have been ignored too long.  The hashtags and the rally boards are all we have to keep the memories of martyrs intact.

2015 was a tough year.

I don’t think that this year is going to be much better.  In fact, I think that last year’s headlines will only be exacerbated by current headlines.  We’ve learned nothing.  Or maybe we’ve learned plenty, but we haven’t figured out how to apply our new found knowledge.

Yes, I’m angry.  Don’t I have the right to be?!?

Everything that I’ve trusted has been proven otherwise.  I was led to believe that we had a justice system that protects the innocent. I see people who look like me (and behave like me) in the most precarious situations.  We find ourselves in situations that would cause discomfort for anyone.  But we are not referring to harassment, wrongful imprisonment, or brutality.  Death is the sentence for anyone who resists.  Wrongful death, accidental death, or even alleged suicide are par for the course if we are too loud, too independent, or try to defend ourselves.

Forget about exerting my Constitutional rights!   Or my human rights!! Don’t even try to explain the misconception.  Or the misunderstanding!  “Guilty while black” has never rung more true.  Why?  Because our society has been given permission to let their hate flag flow freely.

Educators must be more selective than ever when teaching current events in school because of the content of our “leaders” actions.  “Do what ever you have to,” is the freedom call for anyone who feels that they are entitled.

Police are more guarded because of the threat of retaliation for bad police policy.

Business is booming for lawyers and doctors though.  Everyone has standing to litigate and everyone has the ability to see a doctor.  As a result we are collectively bolder than ever. The elitist are protecting their legacy, and the working-class are fighting the downward spiral of becoming more like the the homeless.

It’s getting real. And I’m getting mad!

It’s become too easy to hate others!   No one is focused on giving peace a chance.  A nation of entitled “adult-children” have awakened under the leadership of a man who weekly affirms their complaints.  They rant that America is not the land of opportunity that it once was.

Fact is that we’ve not yet reached our goal of freedom and liberty for all.  Instead we’ve been derailed.  That light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

But who is to blame?  It doesn’t really matter now, does it?  Anger doesn’t care whose wrong.  Anger just fights!   Anger will destroy everything and everyone until there’s either no energy left or nothing left to destroy.

Am I that angry?  No!  But I’m no longer tolerant.  I’m no longer going to tolerate imbiciles who are careless in their acts.  I will not entertain tomfoolery at the expense of others.  I can not answer to subordinates who are incompetent and too inept to do their job.  I am unwilling to tolerate individuals or organizations who are not generating positive energy or positive outcomes.  If this makes me an angry person, I need you to check YOURself.

I’m not nearly as angry as I’m going to be.  I’m AM battling though.  I’m batting not against flesh, but against principalities.   I’m not the only one fighting.  I know what it’s like to ignore, avoid, and even give in to a confrontation.  No more!   My resistance doesn’t make me angry.  It makes me strong.

I am a wall.  A wall is not angry.  A wall is not kind.  A wall is a wall-strong, sturdy, dependable.

Am I that angry black man? Do you want me to be?

Principal, What Are You Teaching Us?

Principal, what are you teaching us?

The number of times anyone is called into the principal’s office is minuscule compared to the countless successes in the classroom (or in the hallway). Teachers are grinding everyday! Grinding away the ignorance, the impatience, and the intolerance. Building trust. Building upon the knowledge of yesterday’s lesson. Modeling appropriate interactions between individuals of similar beliefs and especially supporting of dissimilar ideas. Demonstrating courage to stand up for oneself in the face of adversity.  

This is modus operandi for EVERY teacher. Prospective teacher candidates can’t even get an interview with demonstrating competence AND passion. And veteran teachers don’t retire unless that flame has begun to flicker.  
Ah, but then there are the climbers. The educators who earn an additional degree or certificate to demonstrate a passion beyond the call of duty–the “super educators” if you will. Supervisors and principals too must daily demonstrate a tolerance for a wealth of factors beyond their control. They learn the most contemporary methods of addressing student achievement through staff performance.

Administrators meet with colleagues consistently to identify obstacles, eliminate inconsistencies, and determine the measures necessary to meet a plethora of objectives.  

You see, the objectives for a classroom teacher and an administrator are different. They are not at all aligned. And yet the expectations are the same. Student achievement is supposed to be the overall goal when everyone works together.  

When a student engages in classroom activities, the student is enriched. When a student must “visit” with the principal, that too should be an enriching experience. Regardless of the circumstance, the experience should have a positive outcome. After all, the principal and vice principal are the Teacher’s Teachers. They coach and observe, model and enhance the experience for the students AND the teachers.  

That’s a lot of responsibility! Who does that much at your job? Along with policeman and fireman, educators are the world’s most noble superheroes. Teachers are there even when the loving arms of a parent cannot be there. They are social workers in the truest sense. 
The teachers support their students the way that a social worker provides emotional supports for someone in need.  

Who is there to support the teachers? Principals, right?

But wait? Do you trust a counselor who punishes you? How can a teacher trust an administrator whose perspective of coaching translates to discipline.  

When a teacher is called into the principal’s office, is it for support or a consultation? Is it to collaborate or is it coach? Well, the answers to these questions rely on the audience. It also depends on who else is invited into the principal’s office.  

Principals have the opportunity to lead daily. They can do for teachers what other educators do for students–nourish, enrich, model, and coach. And yet, principals are also the school disciplinarian. For both students and teachers, a call to the principal’s office creates fear and anxiety. What will happen when we cross that threshold? 

How quantitative will an experience with the principal be? How will we gauge the quality of that observation the principal just conducted last week? Will that coaching session evolve into a disciplinary hearing? 

And what of change that we need? Can the principal facilitate the change that is truly needed? It’s so difficult to trust or believe in someone who is not capable doing what they’ve been entrusted to do. In the eyes of a student, their teacher is noble and kind, wise and considerate, willing and able.  

Can the principal be the hero that both the students AND the teachers need? We hope so. We are tired of waiting for Super Man or Wonder Woman.  

Principal, what are you teaching us?